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A solar heater in Uttaranchal, India
© dpa
Germany advises India on Energy

April 24, 2008

By Michael Netzhammer

India faces the huge task of providing more energy – while saving energy at the same time. A German expert is advising the
Bureau for Energy Efficiency (BEE).

Ajay Mathur’s good humour does not suffer even when staff ply him with files to sign, his telephone keeps ringing and he has to answer difficult questions – all at the same time. And he is being asked a lot of questions these days. After all, as the Director of the Bureau for Energy Efficiency he belongs to the group that advises the Indian Prime Minister on climate protection. How should India respond to the problem of climate change? What is India doing about its rising carbon dioxide emissions? Questions that more often than not come from the West. Ajay Mathur chooses a diplomatic answer. “India is prepared to make its contribution, but we do not feel obliged to make prior concessions,” he says. After all, his country needs more energy to improve the population’s standard of living.

Ajay Mathur regards the energy-saving legislation passed by the Indian parliament in 2001 as an important step. It imposed strict economies on the country’s 5,000 biggest energy consumers, the state railways and the owners of the biggest commercially used buildings. Furthermore, the law lays down upper limits on energy consumption in the production of twelve important industrial goods. No European law has gone this far up to now. Mathur’s Bureau for Energy Efficiency (BEE) was founded four years ago to implement the law. It’s his job to persuade consumers to save energy.

Mathur and his staff have some good arguments. India cannot build enough power stations to meet demand from the booming economy and consumers. Under the ninth five-year plan, the 30 federal states promised to build power stations generating 40,245 megawatts, almost twice the output of Germany’s 17 nuclear power stations. But not even half of them have been completed. Pressure to use electricity efficiently is correspondingly high, and this pressure is also felt by Indian industry, because, unlike Germany, businesses in India pay up to three times more for energy than private households.

The other side of the coin is that this makes investment in energy-saving installations lucrative. Take Shree Cement, for example, one of India’s biggest cement producers. The company has invested more than 260,000 euros in raising energy efficiency over the last few years, reducing its energy costs by over 500,000 euros per year. “Now the challenge is to convince other Indian companies to follow suit,” says Keke Charkarvarti, one of the experts at the Bureau for Energy Efficiency. “Shree Cement is one of several hundred companies that have discovered energy efficiency as an important profit factor,” he says.

It took a long time to reach this stage. Several years of preparation were necessary before Parliament passed the law. The Indian experts learned from the experience of industrialized countries, including Germany. “My job here is to be an intellectual sparring partner for my Indian colleagues,” says Albrecht Kaupp. He is responsible for the programme that the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) is promoting on behalf of Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). He is talking about cooperation that is very much on an equal footing, because India has enough qualified experts in the energy sector. “My task is to encourage discussions, to bring in an outsider’s viewpoint, and above all, to deliver expertise quickly in any field where Germany is a leader or where we have know-how that is not available in India,” says the GTZ staff member.

Albrecht Kaupp has two desks. One is in the GTZ building, the other at the BEE. The fact that he and his team can operate in the midst of Indian bureaucracy and communicate directly with their Indian counterparts shows how highly they are respected. There is a huge LCD screen hanging in Kaupp’s small office. He likes to use it to show visitors a graph of the Human Development Index, which highlights the connection between electricity consumption and quality of life. India is way behind the USA and Europe with a per capita consumption of 660 KWh per year. “It’s not surprising that the Americans and Europeans can reduce their consumption without losing quality of life,” says Albrecht Kaupp.

But India will have to increase its consumption of electricity to improve its population’s quality of life. For, today, 500 million people, or 47% of the population, have no access to electricity. This will require a massive expansion of power station capacity. The official statistics predict that coal consumption will at least quadruple over the next 25 years. Which is why Kaupp has no illusions: “Renewable energies alone will not cover the increasing demand for power in the coming decades. What is called for now is moderation; we must use energy more efficiently. The Bureau for Energy Efficiency is working at full stretch to put this principle into practice.”

© Deutschland magazine/April/May 2008
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